After only 7 days of MISS SAIGON rehearsal and with all of Act 1 “on it’s feet” , as we say, we decided to go for a “stumble through’ of the act. It was rough. But its a very good way to get our cast to identify the size of the work in sequence and the vocal, mental and physical demands of this emotionally epic piece having also staged some scenes in Act 2. We didn’t get all the way through as I worked, and reworked, made changes and edits, reassigned set changes; very much a stop-and-go process. But I have to tell you at every twist and turn, I can feel this cast and production team is with me. As with all the shows at Paramount it seems, this group of individuals feels exactly the team that was meant to be here. I’ve found great support from Trent Stork, Assistant Director, and Rebecca Fischer, Assistant Stage Manager, and Beth Ellen Spencer, Production Manager, all three new to their posts on this production. And of course, Rose Packer, Production Stage Manager, is a constant voice of reason and efficiency and a pleasure!
At the end of the day, I think on the privilege given to me to be directing this material with this team. Joe Foronda as “The Engineer” transfixes everyone in the rehearsal hall in his scenes. The young cast watches his mastery of the difficult material in awe. In a role he has performed nationally & internationally many times from Broadway to London, he is generous and driven to relate to everyone in the “now”, ever present, open to possibilities, opportunities to expound upon and explore and find something he may not have seen before.
And there is so much goodness in this cast. In “Why God, Why?”, Brandon Moorhead as “Chris” sings a soliloquy as Shawna Shin as “Kim” is asleep in their bed in this scene after their first night together. After working some blocking around her, Brandon plaintively, in gloriously, opens up full voice and we all realize tears are streaming down her cheeks. “Shawna, what is it?” “It’s so sad!” she whispers.
The power and the message of “Bui Doi” seems enhanced by simple staging and as Elliott Greer’s “John” magnificently voices his impassioned plea for the orphans of The Vietnam War, Audrey Billings, who is half Japanese and whose father was present at The Fall of Saigon, wipes tears from her reddened eyes and even Adrian Aguilar, eyes wide, looks to me and points to the goose bumps on his forearms. There are 8 men singing this anthem with Elliott and it is so overwhelmingly huge and moving, you’d swear you were hearing ten times that.
We are honored to be with each other. On a break, I approach Blaine Brown who plays, “Thuy”, the young Commissar whom “Kim” is promised to marry in the play by their parents when they were children. “Tell me about your background.” “Korean. Adopted as a fetus.” “What?!” “Yes. My Birth-Mother knew she couldn’t raise me and arranged for my adoption.” His parents, all of them, have done well. Blaine, a graduate of Elmhurst College and their Jazz group “Late Night Blue” is an award-winning singer performing internationally, (the Chicago Pops among his many appearances) and is on to a PBS special after MISS SAIGON. He’s bonding with Shawna and Sophie Kim, our “Gigi”, both born in Korea as well! I love this. All of it.
My love & thanks,